While I strive for an optimistic outlook, I do have a tendency to defeatism – to throw in the towel rather quickly, to concede defeat too early in the game, to throw up the white flag at the first sign of resistance. I am well aware of this weakness, so when starting my business, I resolved to work on developing perseverance. You know, that beautiful and highly industrious virtue that is aka endurance, grit, moxie, (and my personal favourite) stick-to-itiveness.
All areas of life–business, philanthropy, religion, politics–are resplendent with examples of individuals who persevered through tough times, overcoming opposition and incredible odds to achieve their goal. I love Winston Churchill. When France had fallen and over 300,000 French troops had been evacuated at Dunkirk before the Nazis turned the full force of their air force on London in the blitz, Churchill inspired Britain, and people across the free world, with his spirit of perseverance:
“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight in the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender…”
Ok, so I’m being a little melodramatic-this admittedly isn’t the Battle of Britain–but I did want to get this mind-set, and I set out to do so by making my mantra: failure is not an option. In early June, I ran into my former boss at a party. He’s a very smart and insightful guy and I really value his opinion and advice which he’s generously given me over the years. We were catching up and I mentioned to him this new mantra of mine and how I was trying to psychologically condition myself to believe that failure is not an option. He tilted his head–his telltale that he’s about to contradict me–and said, Actually, I think the opposite is true, you should expect and even embrace failure. It’s inevitable. No one gets it right, from the outset. Every success has a string of failures behind it and the risk of refusing to concede failure and mistakes is fatal. Of course, he was right.
Now you’re probably thinking that this is so obvious as to be pedantic, but it really was a moment of epiphany for me. The proverbial lightbulb went off over my head. It’s the way businesses evolve–by trying something, figuring out what works and what doesn’t and tweaking as needed. All those corny sayings that I now remembered, “Failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success” and “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” were so true. Perseverance isn’t about avoiding failure, it’s about continuing on in the face of mistakes, insurmountable odds and yes, even failure.
In the words of Thomas Edison, prolific inventor and founder of GE: “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Here’s to hoping we don’t find that many ways.
Aimee Rae, www.pinchcatering.ca, 613-722-7892